Burtston Coal Company Case Summary

Powerful Essays
Questions Presented
Should the Pittston Coal Company be held liable for the emotional damages and psychic impairments of the plaintiffs?
Do the plaintiffs fall within the “zone of danger,” established for NEID cases?
Legal Issues
Owing to the fact that many of the victims of the Buffalo Creek disaster suffered mental anguish or “psychic impairments” rather than simply physical injuries, the question arises in this case whether or not the plaintiffs may recover for these psychic impairments.
Argument
Black's Law Dictionary defines "mental anguish" or "emotional distress"' as an element of damages including "the mental suffering resulting from the excitation of the more poignant and painful emotions, such as grief, severe disappointment, indignation,
…show more content…
It is clear from this evidence that the parameters of the “zone of danger” test have been met in this case. Plaintiffs resided in a “zone of danger” created by the Pittston Coal Company’s faulty coal refuse dams, and plaintiffs were rightfully frightened by the risk of harm.

There is also precedent for recovery for emotional or mental damages alone outside of the “zone of danger”. In Dillon v. Legg, the 1968 case that appeared before the Supreme Court of California, the court ruled that the mother of a child who was struck by a vehicle was eligible for recovery for emotional damages simply for witnessing the accident, even though she was outside of the “zone of danger.”

This case was a foundational case for the establishment of negligent infliction of emotional distress or, NIED. This case relied on the concept of foreseeability to determine if the defendant owed damages to the bystander. The court established foreseeability using the following criteria:
1. Whether the plaintiff was near the scene of the accident;
2. Whether the plaintiff suffered an emotional shock from contemporaneously observing the

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